Williams’ work ethic drives her success
STORRS — The best player that Steve Quattlebaum ever coached didn’t just love to practice. She was obsessed with it.
Christyn Williams would spend hours upon hours in the gym at Central Arkansas Christian School, working to perfect her shot. She was in there so often, in fact, that Quattlebaum, the school’s longtime girls basketball coach, worried the extensive workouts she put herself through would ultimately take their toll.
“She’d leave our practices and go — two or three nights a week we didn’t have games — into another gym for a private workout with somebody,” Quattlebaum recalled Friday by phone. “We just constantly worried about her working out too much.”
At times, Quattlebaum encouraged Williams to scale back her routine, fearing that if she didn’t rest, she would either get burnt out, or worse, hurt. Williams, however, never seemed to listen.
“He used to tell me to rest. … I was like, ‘I’m just going to the gym,’” Williams said with a laugh Friday.
All along, there was a method to her madness. There was a reason why Williams practically made the gym her second home — why she never wanted to leave.
“She’s always been a confident player because she knows she’s put the work in,” Quattlebaum said. “She’s played against great competition, not just in our setting, but with the Olympic teams and AAU in the summer. She’s played against the best.”
Williams, the consensus top player in the Class of 2018, is talented, driven and supremely confident — maybe, at times, a little too confident. In June, the 5foot-11 guard guaranteed that UConn will capture its 12th national championship this season, though head coach Geno Auriemma seems willing to give her a mulligan for that bold prediction.
“She’s supremely talented and supremely confident,” Auriemma said. “Like, really confident. Not like fake, pretend confidence.” Added Williams: “This is just my normal personality.”
This confidence, Quattlebaum says, is part of what set Williams apart in high school — along with, of course, her smooth lefty shooting stroke and nonstop motor. Quattlebaum always marveled at how Williams always seemed to relish the spotlight, specifically those instances when college coaches would be sitting in the stands.
Take this story, from her sophomore year, for example: “In the quarterfinals against Star City, the University of Arkansas coaches were at the game. Coach (Jimmy) Dykes was coaching them at the time. He usually called me when they were coming to watch a game,” Quattlebaum said. “Star City had a really good player. I told Christyn before the game, ‘Did Coach Dykes say anything to you about coming tonight?’ She said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, they must be here to look at the girl from Star City.’ She answered, ‘Oh, OK.’”
Williams promptly went out and scored 41 of her team’s 47 points, leading them to a victory.
“You know how a lot of kids, when a well-known coach is coming to watch them play, they don’t always play their best games? Christyn always did,” Quattlebaum continued. “That was a motivation to her, to show them how good she was. … That’s just part of her confidence.”
Last year, after she had signed with UConn, Williams averaged 26.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists for Central Arkansas Christian School. She won numerous awards, including Naismith Player of the Year and Gatorade National Player of the Year.
Williams — the third No. 1 overall recruit in four years to join the Huskies, following Katie Lou Samuelson in 2015 and Megan Walker in 2017 — has brought that bravado to her first few practices in Storrs. Given how the team’s roster is shaping up prior to the Nov. 4 exhibition opener against Vanguard, the Huskies are hoping it’ll translate to gamedays.
“We’ll probably going to start two kids that have never started a game, ever,” Auriemma said. “When was the last time that happened? We’re going to start one kid who’s never started any games — played any games. The kids coming off the bench have absolutely zero playing experience in any meaningful situations. When was the last time that happened?
“It’s been a while. We’re in a situation that we haven’t been in. And it’s going to take time to shake it all out.”